We interrupt this knitting class for….
Just after I posted about the blanket class I discovered that I had something wrong health-wise. I had been having trouble sleeping, constant indigestion and my weight started dropping like never before. In fact, I had been trying to lose weight but couldn’t budge it. Because of the indigestion I wasn’t very hungry so I wasn’t eating well, hence the weight loss.
On May 6th I went to the doctor. She sent me for an ultrasound and when I went back to see her I could tell this wouldn’t be good. She turned back to the door for a beat, then took a deep breath and told me that they had found a mass on my pancreas. It took my breath away. I wasn’t going to be afraid, but suddenly I was. Steve Jobs entered my mind. I called my husband, emailed the pastors at my church and the rest of my day was a fog. I had to take my mom to the doctor that day but I didn’t tell her then. I didn’t want her to get upset when I didn’t know anything yet.
It’s funny what happens when you are faced with something like this. You start making plans, like what music you want at your funeral. You start thinking, oh man, I’ve got to get all those passwords written down for my husband. And what about my mom? I need to make arrangements for her now. And boy is she going to be pissed if I pass before she does! (She had a fit earlier this year when her younger sister died. She thought she should have gone first because she’s older. Sigh….)
I also cast on some Christmas projects. Cuz you know… (I can’t talk about them yet.)
The good thing is we have a will and and advanced directive. Unfortunately, the impetus for that was my Mother-In-Law’s death last year. It was exactly one year from her death that I had the endoscopy that told us that I have cancer. The timing couldn’t have been worse for my family. My poor Father-In-Law had a really rough time when he heard. Of course my sisters-in-law have been really supportive. And my husband has been a prince. Well, really a king. (His name means king.) He’s been awesome. He usually travels a lot for work but now he is able to stay home indefinitely. He can work from home which is what he does when not traveling. He has been taking me to the doctors, making appointments, grocery shopping and cooking, making sure I take the medications, taking my temperature and making sure I am comfortable. I think I’m getting spoiled.
From finding a problem to the first chemo treatment was only a month, but it felt like an eternity. Tom Petty was right. The Waiting Is The Hardest Part. We saw many doctors, got second opinions and finally opted to go with UCLA’s treatment plan. Their review board all agreed that we should do chemo first to shrink the tumor and then surgery. We were assured that this is the most advanced treatment available. They also said that because I am young* and healthy I should be able to withstand the treatments. Usually they are looking at people in their 60’s and 70’s with this condition.
I have to tell you how blessed I have been in this whole process and how the Lord is really covering me.
In the first place, if the tumor wasn’t in the head of my pancreas I may not have known about it until it was too late. I don’t go in for regular CT scans. Who does? Being where it is caused the indigestion. This is because there is an ulceration in the duodenum. That’s the start of the large intestine just after the stomach.
The day after I found out there was a mass on my pancreas, reality set in. Visions of tubes and hospitals and other people taking care of me flashed in my mind. I cried out to Jesus, basically freaked out in front of Him. And in the middle of my rant I heard, “We’re going to beat this.” I was calmed immediately, but then started in again. I said, “But I’ve always been so healthy!” And I heard, “That’s why we’re going to beat this.” I was able to go about my day somewhat calmly, but of course I’ve had many more moments to cry and doubt and mourn.
All through the process this last month both my husband and I have been amazed by the kindness and gentleness of all the doctors and nurses we have encountered. When I went for my endoscopy I remember feeling so loved and that these people must be in this profession out of a sheer love of people. My oncology nurse turns out to be a Christian and we bonded right away. Definitely a God-appointment. My Oncology doc is the same doctor who treated my mom for her breast cancer. I already knew and liked him. Because of my family history I was urged to get in the high risk program at UCLA. Since I am in the system, he was able to see my history. He’s suspicious that I may have a BRCA2 gene mutation. If so, there may be more specific treatments available to me.
Our primary doctor told us to immediately start setting up appointments with oncologists and surgeons. We’re so glad she did. When we did call for appointments they were about three weeks out. Luckily, we were able to see Dr. Glaspy the following week at his Porter Ranch office. It turns out this is a better option than Westwood. The drive is much easier. We saw him the same day I got my diagnosis. He scared me, but so did the high emotions of the day. He got me in to see his surgeon the very next day and he was also great. He mentioned the course of treatment that he thought we would be using, but needed to take it to his review board. They didn’t meet until the following Thursday, so we were on pins and needles all week. Meanwhile we had set up appointments at City of Hope. That surgeon wanted to operate first which scared me. I felt more and more that we should go with UCLA.
Before my diagnosis, our Pastor and his wife came over and gave us the skinny on what we should expect. He had cancer last year and went through chemo and surgery. Their daughter also had cancer at 14 so they know the system well. It was very reassuring to have their guidance. They told us to be patient, that there is a lot of waiting, for insurance, for doctors, how to work around the office staff. Boy was that true. First we were waiting for insurance approvals and my husband was on top of it. Then waiting for doctor appointments and review boards. It was a long month.
But only a month! Last Saturday our bluegrass band played at our monthly gig, “The Lord’s Kitchen.” Our church has a Saturday each month where they feed the needy a hot meal and we are the entertainment. On the way there I said, “Last month we didn’t even know anything was wrong.” Now I had already had one round of chemo. It seems like forever sometimes, but God moves fast. I remember when my mom was diagnosed that things moved very fast toward surgery.
My church family has been such a blessing. My knitting group has been so wonderful. When I found out something was wrong I told Stephanie at Unwind that I might not be able to teach the blanket class. She said, “Forget the class!” I was with her when trying to make an appointment for the CT scan. They told me they couldn’t see me until the following week. When I hung up she said, “Call them back! Didn’t the order say STAT?” Sure enough it did, but there was some back and forth with the place anyway. I got in to one of their other offices the following day. Looking back at the calendar I am amazed at how fast things happened – in slow motion! I guess it’s like being in a car crash. Everything just slows down in your perception.
I emailed some women that I knew are prayer warriors and they have been praying and calling (just when I needed it most!) and reassuring me. They send me scriptures that comfort me. One of my friends gave me a set of meditation and healing cds. I have been falling asleep with them, but this morning I actually used it like you’re supposed to and I have more energy today. It could be that I am near the end of the chemo cycle, but I like to think that the meditation helped.
The best thing is that when I saw Dr. Glaspy last Thursday he said that I was looking good. He asked me if I had any discomfort and I realized that I didn’t! He said that is a good sign, that the chemo is working. I didn’t realize that it could work that fast, but I am grateful. I have had days since with some discomfort, but none like before. I am hopeful.
If I lose my hair it should be some time next week. Just in case I made a hat.
And since it is really cold in the chemo room, I finished my Swoon.
*I’m really middle aged, but I like being called young!